We are discussing the tragedies of recent acts of terrorism and seeking to understand them in light of the truth.
Islamophobes and religious extremists who claim to be Muslims have something in common. They both misinterpret the message of the Qur’an. They misconstrue one section in particular: Sura or Chapter 9, Verses 3-5, the so-called Kill the Unbeliever verses. In fact 9:3-5 says:
Proclaim a woeful punishment to the unbelievers, 9:4 except to those idolaters who have honored their treaties with you in every detail and aided none against you. With these keep faith, until their treaties have run their term. God loves the righteous.9:5 When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful.
Like the Bible, the Qur’an has both universal messages of morality and passages of history specific to a certain period in time. The above is one such historical passage. It refers to the earliest years of Islam when pagan Arabs were hunting down the new Muslim community to crush the new religion, which was seen as a threat to the polytheists. The Qur’an is telling Muslims to practice jihad, which means self-defense, against these attacking tribes.
If the whole passage is quoted we see that the Qur’an is also calling for mercy if the pagans repent. The following passage, 9:6, says, “If an idolater seeks asylum with you, give him protection so that he may hear the Word of God, and then convey him to safety.”
Americans did not exist in the 7th Century when these words were recited and later written down. So it can’t possibly have anything to do with people alive today. Yet terrorists and Islamophobes both cite this passage as proof that Muslims must kill 21st Century Americans and Europeans. It is a total distortion of Islam.
Jihad is explained in the Qur’an as both self-defense in war, and the inner struggle against one’s ego, pride, jealousy, anger and lust, to free oneself to receive God’s grace. It has absolutely nothing to do with taking innocent life in a terrorist act.